ANOTHER BIG MISTAKE

 

There were indeed nights in the Coliseum. Also sleepovers and MSN conversations. Some teen-age prayers if I recall. The Copps Coliseum the Coliseum in question. Dodging whatever it was to be dodged at the concerts we attended there. Beer bottles perhaps. This was in Ontario my place of birth. Moving to Alberta estranged me from the J-man. 

Fifteen years later I moved to Arizona because Jeremy ran a golf club there. He offered me a job in the pro shop and lodging in his pool house. Upon my arrival he’s got this story and he puts me in the back shop. Just for a few days, he says. Backshop guys clean clubs and retrieve bags for the members. A job typically held by 14-year-old upstarts with big golf dreams.

His poolhouse was more like a shed, both in size and content. Contents including like pool skimmers, a motor for the jaccuzzi, rakes, warped tennis rackets, and a dirty old cot.

“Hey, I thought it would be like old times pounding beers and you’d just need a place to pass out.”

I’d stopped drinking a year and a half ago. 

That night I retired early, not unlike a mule in a stall. I sold it to myself as monastic. I read Kerouac’s The Life of the Buddha. Asceticism seemed attainable on that first night. I was still struggling to get a firm grasp of just whom my higher power should be. I tried to feel that “cool refreshing breeze as [I] realized everything flowered out of the mind, sprung from the seeds of false thinking in the Divine Ground of Reality,” but these thoughts were drowned out by the Jacuzzi motor, “and there stood the dream all woeful and in gloom.” 

For a couple nights I enjoyed the company of my old friend. Prior to my visit he’d been the prominent figure in my recurring dreams of unanswered instant messages or big catered reunions with the Hamilton gang. The reunions always started joyous and ended in ugly confrontation. These dreams spoiled my waking hours. It was important to have this one last jaunt with Jeremy. I thought we’d play videogames, smoke from his vaporizer and mock old CBC documentaries like we’d done in better times.

This was not his plan. On the rare nights he wasn’t dating girlfriends or carousing with sexy young frontshop staff, he had intended to get blind drunk with me. Prior to my arrival he had been getting blind drunk alone on what he called his “lone wolf nights,” but that did not suit him. 

My sobriety had Jeremy in a bad mood as he nevertheless drank for the two of us and said things like, “Do a shot, pussy,” and I’d be like, “Hey, let’s watch something on Netflix.” 

One bout with acute pancreatitis was enough. I had been a website designer who drank Bud Light Lime. My pancreatic duct should not have been so obstructed that my doctor compared it to the pancreatic ducts of the absolute death’s-door types she’d dealt with during her youthful and now-regretted volunteer position at a clinic for the homeless, regret having stemmed from the assault she’d suffered there.

So to Jeremy I’d say, “No, I’ll just stick to soda water, but please do drink on yourself. We can watch or do whatever you like.” 

That didn’t work for him so he went off to strip clubs by himself, and I just sat lotus-style in the shed most of the time. After finishing The Life of the Buddha I realized it really wasn’t the type of repeat read I’d assumed it would be. I couldn’t even go to the library’s 200.s because A) I was from Canada and without a legit address or citizenship of any kind, and B) had no car and was thus a total prisoner of the Jer-man. This was made devastatingly clear on nights he drank at the clubhouse bar with the gorgeous 19-year-old frontshop staff. I’d ask co-workers and even members casually for rides, but this particular region of Arizona was pretty spread out. I was paid only $10 an hour, sub-table, and trying to finance an escape from my old friend, so a cab would have wiped out multiple days’ wages.

I chipped balls onto the practice green for hours, feigning enjoyment during dusks, but also sometimes breaking down and cursing things like, “Fuck, I hate Jeremy. I’m so stupid why did I come here?” One late evening I was teeing up balls on the first tee, angrily driving them into the dark and uncaring horizon, when the J-man emerged from the bar to reprimand me. He made a big scene as this busty front shop employee drunkenly hung from his arm. Were I not so pancreatically hard-done-by I’d be in that bar, the J-Man wouldn’t stand a chance, and I would be all but facially spelunking into that Lacoste tube top.

The next day I informed a nonplussed Jeremy, “I’m sick.” J-bone then locked his house like I was a yard dog expected to just hang out in my shed all day.

I had $700 in cash because while the J-man was being a dick he was at least letting me eat his food and smoke his weed so I hadn’t incurred a single expense. The two day Greyhound trip back to my parents’ condo in Calgary was the safety option. But the old ‘hound into Calgary wasn’t a trip I wanted to have to stick myself with.

In the past I’d had some luck with online dating sites. I was younger then and a way bigger Kerouac fan, so I could lure artistically-inclined young women from the suburbs with road flares of pretention. Now in exodus, I no longer sought that hard-to-please demographic. From guys I knew who weren’t so into Kerouac and in general had fewer cards to play I’d still heard tales of fruitful hookups with older women in neighboring towns. They (i.e., they being the older women) liked the anonymity.

I entered the following search criteria:

Age: 45+

Weight: big boned

Appearance: average looking

“Average looking” was the lowest possible classification of looks. The others classifications were “cute” and “gorgeous.” 

The hope was to find a 45+ year-old, big-boned, average-looking paramour nearby. A couple nights room and board and I could come up with a plan. 

I spent a half hour finding the best marks: Two ladies, in their forties, lesbians, interested in a transient male partner. Charming pictures I figured to be at least a decade old. Strange that neither appeared to be even slightly big of bone. One was blonde and elfish. The other had pale skin, black makeup, and sharp features; not my type, but surely somebody’s. Together they seemed sweet, like they’d make elaborate stews for each other on Sundays while listening to Rammstein. They wanted to meet me at a Starbucks in Fountain Hills in the same mall as the bus depot.

Now finished with the J-man, I dickied his kitchen window, appropriated his substantial weed holdings into my bag, and peed into a measuring cup so that I could pour a small amount of my urine into each of his open grain liquor bottles. 

I reclined as the bus passed arid trails over which pioneering Mormons had once hauled timber for temples, as a lava neck craned out of the Colorado River, as fishermen passed between the Hank and Yank Springs. It was a strange and recursive road. I passed the time chatting with a heavily-pierced aboriginal youth returning to college after living with some kind of collective in New Mexico. The people of Jemez and Taos killed their Spanish priests he told me. Skinwalkers are witches, he also told me. As I looked past crenulated cliffs of red and gray, I had the feeling of something old and unlike the big box retail colony I originated from.

                                                                                                                *

A hallucinational feel was about the two women seated at the Starbucks. I wanted Amanda, the blonde, on sight. Such a cute face. She had a soft, high voice that might have sounded ditzy were she not so dryly measured and theatrically-skilled in her every utterance. She was sweet. She did most of the talking. Without question the pretty femme of the pair. Though still kind of boyish with that cherubic face. Oh, the Amanda that I first encountered! 

Mercury mostly glared at me, but when I made eye contact she’d lick her lips or pat my hand reassuringly. She did not look comfortable doing these things.

It was to be Amanda and me. It was unclear what Mercury would be doing. Ah, Mercury, God love her. An angel flying too close to the ground, I thought. Menacing black makeup probably a result of just a few misunderstandings along the way, I also thought. 

When I tried the literary route, Amanda invoked Doctor Faustus, something called a Romanus-Büchlein, and then some weirdly glottal lines of verse I couldn’t make sense of. 

Abandoning that, I complimented her well-maintained abdominals, revealed stunningly by a cut-off t-shirt. A longing stirred. I wondered how secure Mercury really was as the masculine end of the operation.

Approaching Amanda’s BMW in the parking lot she told me to get in the front seat. After a couple blocks I had our new life together all planned out. She traded commodities from home. Hers was a world of profit and delight. She was set for the foreseeable future. Mercury made dream-catchers and goat-headed figurines that she sold at new age flea markets.

My polite broaching of flea market dynamics begat a hostile diatribe from Mercury regarding how Amanda never helped “man her table” and appeared bored and hostile when she (i.e., when Amanda) did. Amanda gave me a conspiratorial look. Suddenly it was Amanda and I, in it, against the Mercurys and the J-bones of the world. 

Amanda asked what my favorite food was. 

“Chicken wings fried in dirty deep fryers.” 

Mercury balked visibly, then said to Amanda, “I thought we’d have dumplings. Dumplings are fun. Filling. You’ll be just as happy. You’ll feel less remorse after. Remember when we looked at the little chickens at the community farm initiative?”

“Ahh, we have dumplings all the time. I know this great pizza and wing place. I’ll get you a salad.”

Mercury sulked then said in a child-like voice, “I thought we were supposed to be masters of the earth.” 

As almost always happens in these situations, it was one of the worst salads imaginable. We pulled it out of the bag at Amanda’s mansion of a house. People say things like McMansion derisively, but when you are in a McMansion…or, I’ll take ownership and eschew that second person pronoun, when I was in that McMansion, I was thinking I have made the big time. 

You know those hard white chunks in bad salads? Mercury’s salad contained six of those, without one chunk even glancing in the general direction of what could be called either green or a leaf. Amanda laughed a cruel laugh at the ugly salad. Mercury pretended to sulk. The sulk represented 90 percent of how she really felt; the facetiousness was a cheap lie that I presumed she and Amanda relied on a little too heavily. 

Like old Sam Cooke before me, I could feel a change coming on. Meaning I was in. I would be, say, frying eggs while Amanda traded starch-based glues and maybe Mercury could visit on certain weeknights. 

Amanda seemed to admire my abstinence when the wine was produced. Mercury was just gulping it. Amanda dumped out her half full glass. Mercury looked at her with an expression of horror. “Ah, we drink all the time. I’m sick of it,” Amanda said.

Wing digestion under way, we sat on the couch and aimed to watch Judge Judy ironically. Mercury tried to speak some coded language of Judge Judy-specific irony, but Amanda made only a half-hearted attempt to respond. With cat-like grace my Amanda was soon pressing her firm, thick thigh against my somewhat scrawny one.

Mercury said, “I can see you guys are getting horny. Let’s get out the weed.”

I did not appreciate my nascent love reduced to such vulgarity, so I gave both of them a hard look. I feel a hard look is a man’s best position almost all of the time.

There was a real intense fifteen or so seconds when Mercury looked to Amanda, Amanda looked to me, Mercury looked to me, I looked to Amanda, Amanda looked to Mercury, Mercury looked to me, and then I said, “Let’s go,” and then Amanda looked to Mercury who said, “Do you want to practise some dhyana yoga first?”

“I’m good,” I said. 

“What’s his problem?” Mercury asked.

“I spent three years alone without any friends and it really messed me up.”

                                                                                                              *

Like most sexually adequate men, I employ a pretty simple formula when initiating love-making. I start with some face-nuzzling to show sensitivity, and once I’ve set that pace, pick things up with some still-panted pelvic grinding to assert dominance. At this dominance assertion, Mercury, also supine, but not physically involved, gave a vicious flick to my nose tip. They both laughed. I continued with my nuzzling routine, but they were shooting each other glances and I felt less than wholly appreciated.

Some focussed groping on Amanda’s part made me forget about this. As insertion loomed inevitable, Mercury raised an eyebrow at Amanda and suggested the handcuffs. 

The handcuffs were put on me. The second the second latch secured I knew I was in trouble.

Two days of the most minute and tingling slashes you might imagine. It was all In the name of Naberius this and In the name of Naamah that. Cruelly-delayed orgasms. Worse than apocryphal SRA descriptions from Geraldo specials in the era of satanic panic. A lot of tiny little razor cuts. A spray bottle of vinegar. Mercury was more or less docile, sitting in a corner making passive-aggressive comments. 

It was not anger at this new Amanda that I felt. It was sadness for my lost Amanda illusion. That’s what made the torture worse than the actual very real torture it was. I’m getting these tiny pentagrams razored into my chest and I’m thinking of the life I’d planned here in Fountain Hills, stolen by this unfortunate reality of circumstances.

Some people say the people of Arizona are regressive, gun-wielding racists. So give credit to the ball-capped and white-haired neighbourly-type Arizonian I ran up to—post-escape, naked, lubed up, half-Fillipino as I am, moribund and festering, the very stereotype of what a racist Arizonian must fear—because he treated me like a man, even said, “Good God man it wasn’t those Satanic bitches again was it?” 

The police put me up in a hotel to await further questioning. Amanda managed to message my online dating account from jail to suggest that if I blamed it all on Mercury we could be together. 

How much of your persona on Sunday was an act just to set up the horrific two days of torture? I inquired.

Like only twenty percent, she replied. 

Is the torture component of your dark worship behind you?

I’ve been saved ;)

Mercury isn’t doing so bad in the state prison, has a little Xanax and Percocet empire going. She writes heartfelt letters to Amanda bi-daily. I threw them in the garbage at first. But then I started reading them, and since Mercury is doing like fifteen years and the letters are kind of sweet, Amanda and I read them now and say things like Aww. And then, of course, snicker in our way.

Our show is called Macaroon International. We approach it as a triple layer cake to be eaten with big wooden spoons of nihilist contempt. That very resentment of the show’s stupidity is but one of many intended, thoroughly focus-grouped, commercial appeals of the program’s production makes the icing that much richer and regrettable post-binge. 

So on those nights when our mockery grows stale and I yearn for a hard slam from Amanda’s now ever-present wine goblet, I realize that no matter what powers Amanda might conjure and what luxuries these conjurings afford us, that occult, by precise definition, means hidden; as in, the joke is on us.


Mike Sauve has written non-fiction for The National Post, The Toronto International Film Festival Group, Exclaim! Magazine and other publications. His online fiction has appeared everywhere from Feathertale, Pif Magazine, Monkeybicycle and McSweeney’s to university journals of moderate renown. Stories have also appeared in print in M-Brane, Criminal Class Review, Filling Station and elsewhere.